Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What do you see in this photograph I took in 1976? Take a minute before reading and give it some thought, then read about what I see.

To some it was simply a roll of wax paper that had miraculously plopped out of a brown paper grocery bag--or maybe it even jumped out, knowing its fate was to cover casseroles, stews, beets, beans and whatnot--and then bounced out of the back of some beat-up, rusted-out pickup truck on the ride home from the market. Perhaps the roll was hoping to be unwound, detached from its cardboard core and given a glimmer of chance to live, an opportunity to be lifted by a rogue gust, carried above the treetops to float to the place where wax paper is free. Then, the girls happened, and to them everything, through youthful naiveté, deserved a chance. So they picked up the unopened box and collected bunches of sweet fall leaves in reds, yellows, browns, some speckled, still, with summer green. They introduced the leaves to the wax paper, via their mother’s hot iron. The girls tacked many of the shiny leaves on their bedroom wall, so they could enjoy the wonder of the trees throughout winter. Others were sold for a penny a piece. The money converted to Mallo Cups at the candy counter. The leaves breathed relief, their self-destruction put on permanent hold, but the wax paper, with its soul transferred, was not just happy, it was ecstatic.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Today I felt like taking a walk for the first time since having my shoulders manipulated. There is still throbbing and soreness, but the warm of the late afternoon was too persuasive in its beckoning. I think the few pills I have taken for the pain made me edgy and restless, so I needed the energy expenditure. 

 There has been a big change in the color, since the freeze a couple weeks ago. It's nothing like the fall in other parts of the country, but exciting for us in Florida. Green gets old and boring. A hundred shades of green also grow boring. The sun had fallen below the treetops; light pushed through the oaks and longleaf pines, drifted past the bare limbs of the deciduous trees and placed soft emphasis on the color. So, I wrote myself a prescription for one hour of nature, for pain and mental relief. Worked great.  

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comments from readers

I think everyone would agree that it is good to make money from our efforts in life, whether work or hobby. It is, however, a rare thing to happen in writing, but one sticks with it in hopes that the big payoff will happen someday. Along the way, a few dollars dribble in, but they are often less meaningful than the words of readers. I receive lots of messages from people, virtually all positive and backslappy, but some really stand out.  Here are a couple. The first is from a guy who read Percy.

Hi Steve: 

Received the books Monday and finished them last night. This morning feels like I'm back from a trip. Don't want to say much about them, but like all good writing, the poems are a testimonial to the importance of life - even what seems like minor events, maybe especially the minor things. Two of my favorites were Pecking Order and Cape of Burden.

The coffee I brewed this morning's a bit nasty. I always buy the cheapest brand and know that if I can get the concentration just right, it's as good as the high-end stuff, but it's a narrow target. I'm thinking if Meador was here, he'd know what to do.

The second is from a woman who follows my photography and writing posts on facebook.

just have to say, i picture your ride's trunk having an old wooden divided crate full of an assortment of empty brewski bottles, another small antique trunk full of (stuff my g'ma had in her attic in Arkansas...) ...or maybe just filled with a miscellaneous of magical items such as oil lamps, peacock feathers, small tin buckets...a ziploc bag of nails and screws and one of those handy dandy Craftsmen 100 in 1 rechargeable handyman tools...a few small faded cans of paint and some of those foam brushes for quick presto-change-o...more than likely an assortment of coffee cup wraps with 'just the right' quote for the old wooden chair with layers and layers of different colored paints and 4 different height legs...because it's been used in so many different locations and landscapes...New Orleans swamplands, Key Largo...maybe the everglades, bay harbor... near Petoskey, MI, in the snow at Canoe Point on the way to Bar Harbor, ME, somewhere in a western us desert sand..., the sand at Indian Rock Beach...very suitable no matter where, partly because you have just the right cans and colors of paints to help, along the way...or partly because you have directed your attention so completely on your always find a perfect shot of the day to fill one empty spot in your puzzle of that tomorrow will always be fresh and new...yet full of statement. oh yeah, and one or two discarded camera lenses that can no longer fulfill a need...replaced by a much better one picked up for a really great price at a road side sale, or a going out of business camera store that just couldn't withstand the present economy...or maybe just 'i can get such an awesome few shots with no special attachments or extra lenses' because you have such an eye for that kind of thing...and ...really, no coffee cup wraps at all...because you have a way with words and a passion for...expression and creativity...

how bout doing a 'trunk study' ... Steve, thanks for sharing!

Thanks Pam and John. Makes every tap of the keyboard and click of the shutter worthwhile!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Frozen shoulders

My shoulders are not working. I have bilateral frozen shoulder.  When I lift my arms up from each side they get to a certain point, which is less than 90 degrees, then there comes the burn of 1000 bee stings and the muscles lock into position for several seconds. The pain in the joint makes me think of the movie Alien, like something is trying to rip through my skin and escape. All I want is for my shoulders to once again be my body’s cranes, to lift and move as though operated by a set of precision hydraulics, to flow with liquid motion and without pain.

I visit Beulah at her leaning clapboard shanty. She knows how to make things work better and, after listening, disappears behind a filthy, red, wool blanket that hangs over the doorway behind her. She returns with a bag, tells me, “Pour this into bath water that is just below the point of cooking you and soak, soak your whole self, soak yourself until the water chills.”

 Once home, I go directly to the bath, hunch over the tub, sprinkle the contents into the stream of steaming water and watch it dissolve. I am not familiar with the aroma that throws itself at my face, but it is pleasant, flowery, yet a bit of sourness, easy to inhale. After a couple minutes of watching and listening, the faucet seems to release a waterfall; a weak, almost sinister laugh gurgles from my throat as the tub becomes my cauldron. I kneel down and swirl the hot mixture, then slowly climb in.

The hot wraps around me, pulls and sinks me to the middle of my neck. Soon, I am on a mountain top with Sister Maria, we are singing, dancing, running, our arms waving in silken flight. My shoulders roll and flow, my arms rise and fall in smooth undulation.

Maria is tireless. She turns and runs in the other direction. From behind a large granite boulder, Beulah appears and gives me a couple green tablets, “Take this goat weed, the nun is not pure.” Her hand and body evaporate as the offering drops into my palm. The day is short, I hurry after Maria and our play continues until we fall on the thick, soft green of the meadow. She begins to tell me about edelweiss, and how it grows in locations that are often dangerous to reach, along the rocky edges of mountains. She says if I could pick some for her, it would prove my love. Her voice is a harp, sends sleep to me from its soft curves.

When I wake I am in the desert, coughing hot wind, blowing dust out of my mouth, my cheeks stuck to my teeth. A few yards in front of me is a pool of water. I claw my way over the sand and fall in. The water is cool and fragrant, sweet, sour.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One of the things I really enjoy is creating a brief story about the photos I take. These range from total fabrication to complete truth. It is the in-between that is the best. Here is a pic and paragraph that is an in-between. Thankfully, the pitbull was on a sturdy chain!

A few feet off the sidewalk and continuing to the back left corner of the bungalow was a thicket of crotons. Twisted and curly, they grew to an extraordinary height of about four feet. The intense colors--yellow, red, purple, green and mixtures of each--pulled the eye to the growth’s midpoint, so the Spanish moss, dripping oak branches and yellowing sky that teetered above the crotons seemed only silly adornments. The leaves were veined and textured and calling to be touched, to have their thickness measured by a gentle rub and squeeze between the index finger and thumb.  But, as often happens, beauty dulls the senses, other than sight. That often leads to lost caution and blind entry into a land of risky adventure.

Friday, December 10, 2010

.22 Caliber Long Rifle

I mentioned earlier (Oct. 29 post) that I hunted and trapped with my cousin, during the first two years of high school.We killed lots of animals. At the time, our veins full of male teenage flux and vinegar, it seemed the natural thing to do. We were, after all, top of the food chain and everything beneath lived at our discretion. I recall one time we were hunting squirrels and having no luck. The biggest problem was the red-headed woodpeckers. It is a noisy, raucous bird, a kind of sentry for the forest. Everywhere we walked they began a raspy squawking. To us it was annoying, to the rest of the wildlife in the woods it was a warning. After a couple hours our attention was diverted to the birds and we unloaded our guns over the next hour, until nearly 30 were killed. We were not impacted emotionally, at the time, it was just the thing to do for revenge. We stacked them into a large pile, like a stack of wood to burn, and admired our marksmanship.

I have thought about that afternoon for years. That day, along with all the other slaughter, has turned me into a man who cannot kill an earwig as it scurries across the family room floor. It gets a free trip to the nearest porch. I try to save any and every living thing I can. The woodpeckers deserve a few words, and here is another poem, which was also published, to say I regret my actions:

.22 Caliber Long Rifle

In a way it was the Wounded Knee
of 3 Acre Woods, only there was a bed
of colored leaves instead of snow and our
dead was not grotesque, but lined up
in a row.  The twenty seven red-headed
woodpeckers had not feared us.

Limestone in the creek, beyond a maze
of rotting trunks, gurgled and hissed beneath
rapid water, called for a return to sanity.
“Pretend I am flint in a flammable pool, cast
your rust upon me. I will ignite and deliver
your last sins in a scroll of flames.”

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Paco the dog

“He wasn’t much when she brought him home. About the size of a sweet potato. About the same amount of hair, too.”
The chihuahua climbed onto my lap.
“He likes you. Don’t even like people he knows, usually. You got a dog?”
 I took a few seconds, “No, sir, mine died.  I don’t think I could go through that again. I just get my fill when I am out and around.” 
He pulled some oranges off the tree behind the bench and handed me a couple.
“A little dog like that ain’t much account around a farm. You sit there and fill your tank with him.”
For the next couple minutes each of our thoughts unfolded privately, until the old farmer spoke, “Twice isn’t always good. He’s old. My wife’s dog, really. I suppose I’ll get to lose her a second time soon.”
Paco shivered beneath the stroke of my fingers, as we built small piles of orange peel at our feet.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advice To Teachers

Advice To Teachers

There are certain things which you cannot discuss
in front of a class of sixth graders. The sperm whale
garners a giggle, whether it is navigating the open
ocean far from the land of the platypus and wombat,
or near icebergs where fairy penguins reside.

Never preface the ornithology section of the book
with, “Class, I would like to give you the bird.”
And do not introduce the spotted redshank on the same
day as the woodcock. Woodpeckers can be touch and go,
particularly the hairy or the red-cockaded. The eastern

wood peewee and the buff-breasted sandpiper will draw
sniggers from the males in the back of the room. Brown
boobies will bring a flush to every female cheek. Chaos
comes when the tufted titmouse is mentioned, especially
if one can be found perched in a pussy willow. Steer clear

of stag beetles, if possible, and beavers completely. Horny
toads are thorny issues, jackasses no easier than the Asiatic
wild ass or the dik-dik. Even chickens can be taboo when
the cocks are Jersey Giants or Rhode Island Reds. Above
all, try to make no reference to anything regarding Uranus.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I have been in the real estate business for 26 years, and it never surprises me how many people don't like Realtors, for one reason or another. That is okay, because I know where I stand on the ladder of life, just below car salesmen and just above attorneys. It seems that in those 26 years that I have seen 52 years worth of life. I have seen the naked and the dead, poverty and filth almost unbelievable, opulence that is sickening, male and female clients making a move on me (and I don't mean out of their home!). It has been hilarious, like the time one of my sellers in California told me her whole neighborhood spent a week constantly walking past a newly sold luxury home, trying to get glimpse of the new owner. One of the neighborhood kids, 7 years old, met the same age son of the new residents and then went home to tell his parents that the new owner was in comedies. The big let down came when the new owner introduced himself to a neighbor and said he was vice president of a large brokerage firm that specialized in commodities. Even the wealthy are awestruck and struck down!

There has been plenty of tragedy. I don't bring this up because I want folks to change how they feel, but because I want them to know there is more to getting up everyday and driving to the bank in a luxury car to deposit those huge commission checks. Sometimes that is true, for most agents it is not. Most live near the poverty level themselves. The only thing I would change about all those years is the amount of hours I worked, the number of 12-14/7 weeks I put in, while my family was growing up. But, I was addicted to the business, and probably not due to the money. It was the excitement of the unknown adventure that was just beyond every turn of the car or house key. It was a lifelong variety show and everyday I had to smile through it and come home like it was just another ordinary afternoon. Here is one, although not verbatim, that is as close as it can get to the real event. Hope you enjoy!

It was appalling, really, the number of phone calls and knocks at the door that Cletus received in the hour I sat at his kitchen table. Ever since his wife’s obituary hit the paper, ten days earlier, he was under siege. One sales person after another—windows, vinyl siding, roof, air conditioning system, fencing and more. “Ten hours a day they’re at me. Won’t take a no. I’ll slam the door and the same son of a bitch will knock again, I’ll say no again, then he’ll go stand on the sidewalk across the street and another snot nose bastard will knock. For Christ’s sake, they think I’m blind! I know what it is, they think there’s life insurance. There ain’t. The only money I had was hidden under the bed, nearly three thousand for a casket and plot payment.. Somebody broke in and stole it the afternoon of her damn funeral. I don’t know where I’ll get the money to pay it all, unless you can sell this old house. That would give me what I need to cover it all. Leave me a little  to rent a place, somewhere.” He lit another Camel, inhaled deep, for what seemed ten seconds. Then, he held it in his lungs, like he was toking weed, before letting it out the other side of his mouth. His cigarettes were never pulled from between the lips until they were finished. The ashes simply plopped off once the strand grew heavy enough. Deeply in. Glow like red neon. Slow stream of gray out.

I went over the comparable sales with Cletus, showed him what homes in the neighborhood were selling for. He lived in a rundown, low-lying area just west of downtown Columbus known as The Bottoms. It may have been named because of its geographical low spot, but now it was the bottom in nearly everything: income, property conditions, desirability, crime (not bottom, but top of the list). The house was alright, a 1920’s bungalow, clean, well maintained, a little smoky smelling, new appliances, remodeled bath and kitchen and a beautiful enclosed porch on the back. That was a problem. Cletus and his wife, Dorothy, had the porch added two years previous and financed it with a $30,000 second mortgage, at some ridiculous interest rate. Coupled with the first mortgage of approximately the same amount meant he would not be able to sell the home and pay off both loans. The house was only worth about $45,000, at best.

He just stared at the numbers I had written, took out another cigarette, tapped the end of it on the table, lipped and lit. “Well, that don’t look like the way to go, does it?” The phone rang as he was about to continue.
No, she ain’t here.
I don’t believe she’ll be back.
Who’s this?
Yeah. Visa Card? And what bank?
I offered him a piece of paper and pen. He shook his head and flashed his hand at me, in refusal.
No, I don’t know anything about her cards. She got them and never said a thing to me.
No sir, I don’t believe your business with her has anything to do with me.
No sir.
Well, is my name on the account?
There you go, then.
No, I don’t think you’ll get shit from me.
I told you she won’t be back, so, I’m gonna hang up now.
Is that so?
Yeah, I know where she is.
No, I won’t give her a message.
I see. Tell you what, damn if you ain’t in luck, I see her now, so you hang on just a second and you can tell her all that stuff yourself.
Cletus limped over to the lamp table in the living room and picked up a 5x7 picture frame containing a photo of Dorothy, returned, placed it in the middle of the table and sat down again. He lifted the handset,

You still there?
I’m going to put the phone by her right now and you talk to her all you want. Okay?
Don’t matter. You can call her Dorothy, or Dot. That’s what most people call her. Okie dokie, here you go.

He placed the receiver beside the picture frame and nodded for me to go into the living room with him, where we looked through the curtains and saw three guys, mid-twenties standing across the street.

“Son of a bitches. Look at’em. I better go see how that conversation is going.”

He went back to the kitchen and picked up the phone.

You find out what you needed to?
Well, did you explain it all?. Like you did with me?
She didn’t say anything? Nothing at all?
There’s a good reason for that. She died a week and a half ago.
I appreciate that.
Yeah. You too, now.
Good bye.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ghost of Little Richard

I thought I saw the ghost of Little Richard. It was at a bus stop on South Dale Mabry, mingling with about a dozen people. Its face was a shiny cappuccino, stretched tight as a trampoline over bulbous cheekbones. Eyebrows cranked up nearly to the hairline and magic-markered to perfection. What a head of hair! A curly/frizzy/semi-mullet affair, it glistened like crystals in the yellowy late afternoon light. Lanky rheumatoid fingers. Gnashing and clacking skeleton teeth, looked like they were trying to bust a song. But it was the weaving through the people, completely unnoticed, that made me think ethereal being. Even the big lady plopped on the steel bench didn’t sing, when it stood behind her, stretched out those bony fingers and punched out lines of Good Golly, Miss Molly on the invisible ebony and ivory keys along the back of the bench. Plus, nobody looks like that while living. Then, I get home and find out the guy ain’t dead.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Visitors from treeblog, I will be posting several tree related photos and pieces in Feb, beginning with the Feb. 1 post.  Please take a look and leave a comment so that I can visit your place! Thanks.

Fall At Highbanks

Warmth has tilted south
Riverbank shale shares blackness
With a new moon’s face

Saw-edged elm leaves shake
Sprinkle streams with harmless shards
Yellow boats drift free

The odor of oak
Rough bark and rings around heart
Smoke from a chimney

Frost sows new clothing
Vines don a velvet jacket
Sun unzips it all

Cedar waxwings sing
From bare sycamore branches
Echoes stuff the gorge

Ice flavors the air
Soil will harden like amber
Clouds split like white quartz

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sometimes things have to take a silly turn.

Scene: any home in the world where there are sensible, caring parents and a fourteen year old child.

Mother:  I want you to stop writing that silly twaddle, that poetry.

Daughter:  No, mother, I will not.  It frees me. It delights my soul and sets angels flying and flitting about me in a frenzy of happiness. (She slaps the back of her hand against her forehead and pretends as if she is going to faint. The motion makes a sound akin to a quarter of beef being dropped on a concrete floor.)

Mother:  I shant allow it! It is of no value. There is no future in it, where income and status are concerned. It will lead you to being a motley beggar on the steet. (She turns her back to her daughter and faces a fake fireplace, staring at the photo of her own father, a former trapeze artist.)

Daughter:  I don’t care about money, mother. I do it because I MUST! If I cannot write I shall explode. My head will fill with angst and depression and blow like Vesuvius. Is that what you want mother? Do you want to come into my room and see my brains flowing over the Persian rug like river of lava? (She rushes at her mother, fingers wiggling around her head.)

Mother:  Your father and I have made a final decision and there is to be no more of the silly verse. Besides, if you fear for your sanity we can have you visit Drs. Rolls and Royce.  If that fails, then you shall see Drs. Smith and Wesson. Now go to your room. (Mother turns and faces daughter, hands on hips, face taut.)

Daughter:   Fine. I hate you! I hate both of you! I will do as you say and go to my room, but first I must go to the garden shed and get a pansy for my window sill. (She runs toward the door, a devious scowl across her face.)

Mother:  (She follows daughter to door and calls for the maid.) Alice!

Alice:  Yes madame. (Enters, holding a feather duster.)

Mother:  Would you ring Mr. Borden at the office? Tell him I am having trouble with Lizzie again.

Alice:  Will there be anything else madame?

Mother:  Please tell Henry that I will have the peanut butter and tuna sandwich for lunch. For beverage I will have my special tonic, on the rocks.

Alice:  Yes, madame. Would you like him to serve it in the parlor? (Bowing slightly and backing out of the doorway.)

Mother:  No, I shall take it in my bedroom. And Alice, make sure Lizzie goes directly to her room, once she returns from the garden shed. And please make sure there is no loose dirt on that dreaded pansy.  (Leaves the room and starts up the staircase.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fire tower

At 9 and 10 yrs old, while voraciously reading The Hardy Boys books, I thought the greatest job in the world must be the park ranger who manned the fire lookout tower. From there I could spot criminals, solve mysteries, locate lost hikers and campers in peril. Not to mention the animals I would be able to save. My imagination was never away again, after those days of crawling inside books, coming out to a world of magical daydreaming. I felt the same way about that job through high school, when it became flip of the coin close with becoming a biology teacher. Ultimately, I found that neither would lead me to the money I hoped to earn at some point. So, instead, I got that degree in journalism. I love nature and all things connected, but the right choice was made. Still, every now and then I daydream about sitting in that tower, my keen eyes scouring the world through powerful binoculars.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cairo, Ohio

Impression While Passing Through

Cairo, Ohio, is corn and beans,
a stone's throw from Columbus Grove
and just up the road from Delphos.
It is ivy, trains and weather-worn bricks.
When fields are pocks of stubble and ice,
a man has time to dream
of a fertile delta--a place to warm his face
and busy his idle hands. A woman
imagines ironweed swelling with color
so dense that petals fall
onto her palm as bits of amethyst.


Friday, November 19, 2010

A column that was printed in Boomer's Today Magazine.

I am beginning to wonder if this whole writing thing is taking me in the direction I really want to travel. It has been brought up a couple times recently that my work has taken, or needs to take, a different tone and feel. My wife and a female friend have both played the female-factor card.

The friend was the first to make an observation. “Your writing is much softer lately. It is an indication that you are getting in touch with your feminine side.”  SAY WHAT!!?? We had a healthy discussion during which she explained that my whole life has been a manly experience, me being the explorer, hunter, provider, father, etc, etc. Excuse me if I’ m wrong, but that is what a man does and continues to do until he reaches the end, and then he goes out fighting the big reaper. She told me that the soul has to balance everything out before the end comes, that compassion, caring and nurturing are coming to play. I have been all those things my whole life, why would she think they are rearing their ugly heads now?

My wife took a more tactful approach. She nuzzled up to me and said she just knows that I can write something equal to The Notebook or The Bridges of Madison County. According to her, authors Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller have the ability to think like women and that allows them to produce the tearjerkers that the (I want to say weaker here, but dare not) lovelier and more gentle of the sexes enjoy reading. That translates into big sales, movie deals, and lots and lots of money.

She is not sure if those two are in the female-thinking mode all the time, just during their writing moods, and, here is the kick in the rump to me, she knows I can jump into that persona in order to write something just as good.

Could it be that the more intuitive sex has latched onto something about me? Or, more scary, actually see something latent in me that I have been suppressing my whole life. The answer is a big John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Steve McQueen NO! Heck, I can write like a woman anytime I want. I can be touchy-feely. I just have a hard time letting go of the old days, when a cowboy would go on a cattle drive and return more of a cowboy than when he left. I want athletes who play like Y.A. Tittle in a 1964 game, after which one of the most incredible sports photos ever taken was snapped—a beaten and bloodied man kneeling in the end zone (go google, you’ll see!). I want to catch a catfish, gut it, run a stick through it and roast it over an open flame and call it fishkabob. Well, I can still do that, but I am afraid of the pollution in the river.

After all my daydreaming and reminiscing, if I have the time and inclination, then I will get in touch with whatever feminine parts I have and write that bestselling, blockbusting American novel, and lots of female readers will bawl their eyes out.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I hope if nothing else comes of this blog that it will at least prompt those of you who do not have a system of regular writing, whether prose or poetry, to take a little extra time to notice what is happening around you. I mentioned before that you should carry something so you can jot a quick note, or get that handy voice recorder. I am, perhaps, too aware of what is going on in areas around me, so much so that my wife is getting scared to ride in the car with me. She says I pay too much attention to every bird within a quarter mile, or every little movement in the weeds. It is her way of saying that I should pay more attention to my driving.

Maybe I never outgrew the curious stages of my younger life. I do think that is something adults lose. It is natural to do so, as life becomes preoccupied with a different agenda, like making a living, raising a family and placing more intense concentration on a fewer number of things that we are really interested in. Then, when vacation time comes along, that special time for unwinding turns into a fury of hurry, hurry, hurry! I just try to do it a little along the way every day.

The last two posts are examples of a couple times where I took a minute to enjoy the smallness and ordinary that was in front of me. I always have a camera with me because I need it for my work, but my attention would have been scooped up without the camera being available. So, slow down, just a little bit, and be aware, take a mental note of something that you catch at the corner of your vision. Be curious. Then, write something brief about it.

Here is another example. A simple lunch with my wife at a Mexican restaurant in the small village of San Antonio, FL, produced all kinds of colors, sounds, aromas. I was still calm and sane enough after her telling me to pay attention to my driving, to and fro, to come up with this:

During the Drought
San Antonio, FL

San Antonio is sandy roads
lined by wiregrass and lantana
growing wild. Corona washes
down flautas floating in a habanero
sauce that melts the Florida sun.

A woman there wears a red top,
enters the world every day
through a painted gate to water
the beds. Her scooped neckline dips
as she talks to panting marigolds,
and I dream of finding doubloons
along a beach on the Spanish Main.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Brown Anole Anolis sagrei

The Brown Anole

For several months
he has guarded our postal
bastion. At first, either darting
through a slot, to be buried
by the bills and take a happy
crap on the junk mail,
or, courage dismantled,
jumping to the nearby tree.
The gargoyle now remains on top,
even when I open and close the lid.
Tan to dark brown to a blotchy
in-between, depending on his views,
the quirky anole tests me
by doing his jerky pushups
and tilting his head slightly
to read my mood. I move, his eyes move,
I blink, he blinks - a macho Morse code.
Defiantly he hangs and flashes
his bright red dewlap. If I could only
trust him,
train him,
I would never have to raise the flag. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Middle of nowhere

I have been to the Middle of Nowhere. There is a leaning street sign and crumbling asphalt that has faded from macho darkness to milky gray. From above, the asphalt would look like a jigsaw puzzle, pieces defined by cracks overstuffed with the hardiest of  weeds  A few feet from the street’s edge a ditch coddles water the color of Mail Pouch spittle. Beyond that, seeds of nothingness have sprouted and matured into dunes of boredom, which in turn will pitch fluff into the first decent breeze in hopes of spreading to adjacent land. The place is oak trees, acorns, thistle, sedge and poison ivy. At first it is silent, except for the call of a single scrub jay. The song is weak and absorbed by nearby leaves. Then comes a hum from the wings of a fly and murmurs from crickets and frogs. The whole of their sounds is audible, if I point my ear in the right direction, like a timid imitation of the blues. Perhaps this is the type of place where Agee found his “voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds.” There is one yellow flower, maybe the size of a half dollar, atop a low scrabble of weeds. It does not belong here, in the Middle of Nowhere. We have found each other, and the decision to be made is whether I leave alone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sometimes the task at hand requires blending the current with the past. Sometimes it requires having a blend of levity and somber, without a maudlin aura. My wife asked me to come up with something to say at her class reunion, during the remembrance of lost classmates. I had no clue how to go about it. I had some appointments in Tampa, about 25 minutes away, that I was getting ready drive to. Backing down the driveway I turned on the radio and John Mellencamp's Small Town began to play. For whatever reason, it was all I needed and before I got the first appointment the piece was complete. Sometimes we get lucky and it happens that quick. Sometimes it never comes to us at all. The hardest part was coming up with a title!

Something For My Wife’s Class Reunion

“Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
And that's prob'ly where they'll bury me”

lyrics from Small Town
by John Mellencamp

That was the ideal idea of life when we were young,
to spend our whole lives among family and friends.
But somewhere along the way the ideal lost its appeal
and we scattered to places well beyond Cleveland,
Dayton or Ft. Wayne. Whether it was careers or loves
or the feeling that a small town could not contain
all we had to offer the world, many of our classmates
brushed off their small town dust and moved on.

Some have moved on the greatest distance of all.
It may not always be easy to remember the names,
or whether they were jocks or nerds or bandies or hoods,
or any of the other labels so abundant in those days.
But we will remember their smiles and faces,
from playgrounds, bowling alleys, ball fields and hallways.
That is how the mind works, it recalls the innocence,
the fragile times, the good times,
the times when we all planned to never leave. But we do leave

and we hope these are the words from those still around,
“Oh, I remember him, or her, we were both from the same small town.”